Apple Gearing Up For iWatch Launch

Apple has reportedly poached an sales executive from luxury watch brand Tag Heuer to help its upcoming launch of iWatch, which is rumored to be set for an October release. While Google is getting a head start over Apple in the smartwatch race, this move seems to indicate Apple’s intention to capture the high-end of the nascent wearable market by combining the sleek, elevated product design they are known for with its beloved iOS-exclusive app. Whether this positioning of iWatch as a premium device would work out for Apple remains to be seen, but with Apple in the ring, we sure are in for a real smartwatch battle later in the year.

Google Play Unveils Android Wear Apps

A new section specifically for apps that work with Android Wear capable smartwatches has been unveiled on Google Play. Even though the compatible smartwatches, which include the LG G and the Moto 360, haven’t even been shipped yet, Android users can now plan ahead by checking out the apps. The news came right after Google announced it will close the ecosystem for Android Wear, forbidding third parties to create custom skins or smartwatch interfaces while universalizing the smartwatch experience across the Android platform. This preemptive strike, harnessing the considerable public curiosity about what exactly these watches could do, seems to indicate Google’s confidence in launching the Android-powered smartwatches. And given the burgeoning wearable market and the general trend towards wearable tech, Google’s vote of confidence on these apps could solidify their lead on wearables devices as they continue to flourish.

Moto 360 Crowdsources Smartwatch Designs

The main criticism levied against smart wearables is the fact that none of it is actually fashionable, meaning that nobody would actually wear it. Motorola wants to solve that problem with its smartwatch, the Moto 360; it’s put out an open commission for designs on its watch, and they’ve now whittled over 1600 submissions down to 10 eye-catching designs that seem poised to break the unfortunate trend of clunky wearable tech. For pictures of the designs, click through to The Verge, above. 

How Smartwatches Could Be Used For Ads

With Nielsen reporting that 15% of consumers are presently wearing technology, advertisers have taken notice. It remains likely that the new iterations of technological wrist-wear won’t feature ads, but as they become more of a cultural staple Madison Avenue will be thinking about how to get ahead of the curve, and here are a few examples of what that might look like. Hypertargeting, a concept already known to advertisers as a way to target people based on time, location, and other factors to serve the ad at the perfect moment, would become easier and more readily accessible on the watch. Helpful notifications or ads that provide value could be thought up via fitness trackers integrated into watches; for instance, if your pulse is high, a green tea company might ping you with an ad to help you calm down. It’s important to note that the smartwatch isn’t just another screen where traditional, interruptive advertising will work: the line between the body and the device is narrowing, and if marketers are seen as intruding what is an increasingly personal space, consumers will baulk.

Motorola & LG Announce Android Wear Smartwatches

Fresh off of Google’s announcement that it’s developing an Android smartwatch OS called “Wear,” Motorola and LG have announced new pieces for the operating system. LG’s G Watch, due to arrive next quarter, looks to be a simplistic plastic touch screen much like other devices already available on the market. Motorola’s Moto 360, however, could likely become the creme of the smartwatch crop. With real leather and machined metal, it’s a sleek-looking device that brings the form factor of the smart watch to a level likely deemed more than acceptable by most regular watch owners, who want a device fashionable enough to actually sport on their wrists. Both prominently feature Google’s Android Wear, and represent concrete, physical steps to compliment Google’s earlier announcement to break into the smartwatch space. 

Apple Testing Smartwatch Power Solutions

As hardware companies begin to jump onto the smartwatch trend, it’s only a matter of time until Apple launches its own.  Consistent with Apple’s traditional emphasis on elevated product design, it appears the hardware giant has begun tackling a major pain point of wearable tech: power.  A new report from the New York Times reveals that wireless induction charging, and methods for incorporating solar panels into displays, are in the testing phase for eventual inclusion in an Apple wearable.  These technologies are unlikely to be included in an Apple smartwatch, should it be released later this year, but they address a major concern for wearable tech, and could make widespread adoption of smartwatches a closer reality upon their implementation.

CES 2014: New Pebble Steel Reaches For High End

Amongst the announcements by the goliath tech companies came the release of the Pebble Steel. Arguably the pioneer of the second generation of smartwatches, Pebble was preordered over 275,000 times ahead of its Best Buy debut this summer. The one facet of smartwatches that has failed to translate, however, is the higher end; it has been difficult to convince those who are used to higher end wristwear to purchase a smartwatch (which, debatably, is one of the main markets holding the technology back). The Pebble Steel, however, aims to change all that. With a matte stainless steel construction, a sleeker profile, and a smoother operating system with more processor power, the Steel has the look and feel of a high end product. It’s also at the price point to match: $249 per watch puts it firmly out of reach of the average consumer. 

What’s more, there’s a brand-new app store arriving at the end of January, when the watch hits stores. At $100 more than the present offering, the Steel definitely brings wearable tech to the higher end price point, while, at least on first impression, bringing the looks to match. 

Nissan Releases Smartwatch

Just under a week after Samsung’s Galaxy Gear was launched, Nissan has a smartwatch of its own. The Nismo, as it is called, measures the wearer’s biometric data – such as heart rate and temperature – and connects to the car itself through Bluetooth. It displays data such as fuel efficiency, and offers full social integration as well, so users can share their drives much like they share runs. The watch is aimed at performance cars at the moment, but there are strong indications that it will also be interfaced with more common cars, like the Leaf, which can already function through the owner’s smartphone. The Nismo can last a week without a charge, and could herald a new era in the realm of the connected car. 

Smartwatch Race Heats Up

Today LG has officially joined Samsung in the race to create a functional, practical smartwatch. Of course Apple has been rumored to be developing their own watch – but they haven’t confirmed anything – and now according to the Financial Times, Google has also begun development on a smartwatch, again unofficially. Sony has already shipped their own, and Kickstarter darling Pebble is already very successful in their own right. The takeaway? In due time, you won’t want for smartwatch choice, if these come to pass. It’s no longer a matter of if; it’s a matter of when, and how prepared you are for the watch market’s coming of age.